Yes, Indeed, Honey does not expire. It stays edible and beneficial for thousands of years. Ultimately, Honey found in the Egyptian pyramid was edible even after 3000 long years.
Although we don’t keep honey that long, these findings show that natural honey never expires. However, certain factors affect the colour and texture of honey in the following conditions:
1. It becomes darker with ageing. Especially in hot weather.
2. Honey may crystalize because of natural reasons.
3. It may get spoiled in a few conditions due to mishandling at the time of honey extraction and the way honey is stored.
Let’s answer some frequently asked questions around this through our three decades of natural honey handling experience.
Table of Contents:
Why honey does not expire?
There are various reasons why honey does not expire. They are mainly because of:
1) High natural sugar content in Honey:
Natural honey contains high natural sugars and less water (moisture) content. This makes honey hygroscopic, causing drying out or killing of microbes in contact with honey. This contributes to the longevity of natural honey.
2) Acidic nature of honey:
The honey is acidic because of the presence of gluconic acid. This inhibits bacterial growth. The gluconic acid is produced during nectar ripening. Therefore only ripe honey can stay longer.
3) Antimicrobial enzymes in honey:
Honey bees secret an enzyme called glucose oxidase in nectar. This enzyme produces hydrogen peroxide in the ripening of honey. Hydrogen peroxide has an antibacterial property.
Why is there an expiry date on honey labels?
As a matter of fact, no natural honey brand needs to write an expiry date.
However, the “best before date” on all honey labels is to adhere to the Food Regulation Authority of India guidelines and for consumers to enjoy the freshness of honey within the time mentioned. Otherwise, it is perfect for eating honey and keeping it long.
You will not find an expiry date on BHARAT HONEY. However, the ‘best before date’ on its label.
Salt and Vinegar also do not expire. But they still carry an “expiry date” or “best before date”.All this follows the food label rule, which says that all food articles must carry an “expiry date” or “best before date”.
When does even natural honey expire or spoil?
If honey is extracted in unripe condition:
Ripe honey has lesser moisture when compared to unripe honey. When honey bees collect nectar, It contains more than 50%water. All the water is dried out by the bees during the process of making honey. This is called honey ripening.
If honey is extracted before ripening. Unripe honey because of excess moisture may cause fermentation.
moreover, unripe honey does not produce hydrogen peroxide which also leads to its lesser shelf life.
If honey storage is improper:
If kept open :
Natural Honey is hygroscopic in nature. It attracts atmospheric moisture when RH (relative humidity) is more than 48%. excess moisture causes fermentation which spoils the honey. We should always store honey in an airtight container.
If stored in metals or plastic container :
Natural honey is acidic in nature. If you store honey in a metal container it may cause corrosion of metal. The corrosion may get contaminated with honey.
Plastic or pet bottle may cause the leaching of chemicals when stored for a longer period or exposed to heat. The leached chemical contaminates honey.
Ideally, Honey storage is safe in a Glass vessel, stainless container or earthen pot.
How to Store honey?
- If you are planning to store honey for longer, Store it at a lower temperature. (Though it may get crystallised it is safe to eat as crystalization of honey is a natural phenomenon). You can bring it back to liquid form by placing the honey glass jar in a shallow pot of warm water.
- Honey should be stored either in glass, stainless steel or earthen pot.
- The vessel should be airtight, or else honey imbibes water and get fermented.
Changes occur in aged honey
If the storage of honey is for a longer period, the following changes may occur.
- Honey gets darker.
- Crystallization of Honey may occur.
- HMF (Hydroxymthyfurfural) content increases.
- If improperly stored, the fermentation of Honey may occur.
Fermentation of honey
Fermentation of Honey occurs in two conditions:
- Unripe honey.
- Improper storage of Honey.
If fermented, the smell or taste of honey may resemble some alcohol, then don’t use that honey.
The natural or raw honey if extracted ripe never expires, although it may crystallize or get darker.
Crystallisation does not mean adulteration or spoilage of honey.
Keep an eye on proper storage to increase the shelf life of natural honey, because improper storage may damage honey.